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Stories of Redemption by Emily P.

Freeman,
Sarah Bessey, Trillia Newbell and more

soul bare
edited by

Cara Sexton

soul bare

Stories of Redemption by Emily P. Freeman,


Sarah Bessey, Trillia Newbell and more

edited by

CARA SEXTON

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InterVarsity Press
P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
ivpress.com
email@ivpress.com
2016 by Cara Sexton
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from
InterVarsity Press.
InterVarsity Press is the book-publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a movement
of students and faculty active on campus at hundreds of universities, colleges and schools of nursing in the
United States of America, and a member movement of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
For information about local and regional activities, visit intervarsity.org.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW
INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
While any stories in this book are true, some names and identifying information may have been changed to
protect the privacy of individuals.
Published in association with MacGregor Literary, Inc.
Cover design: Cindy Kiple
Interior design: Beth McGill
Images: Rosie Ann Prosser / Trevillion Images
ISBN 978-0-8308-4326-8 (print)
ISBN 978-0-8308-9439-0 (digital)
Printed in the United States of America
As a member of the Green Press Initiative, InterVarsity Press is committed to protecting
the environment and to the responsible use of natural resources. To learn more, visit
greenpressinitiative.org.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Freeman, Emily P., 1977- author. | Sexton, Cara, editor.
Title: Soul bare : stories of redemption / by Emily P. Freeman, Sarah Bessey,
Trillia Newbell and more ; edited by Cara Sexton.
Description: Downers Grove : InterVarsity Press, 2016. | Includes
bibliographical references.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016010697 (print) | LCCN 2016011635 (ebook) | ISBN
9780830843268 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780830894390 (eBook)
Subjects: LCSH: Christian lifeMeditations.
Classification: LCC BV4501.3 .F73934 2016 (print) | LCC BV4501.3 (ebook) |
DDC 248.8/6dc23
LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016010697
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CONTENTS
Introduction / 9
Part One: Letting Go
More for You Than ThisShannan Martin / 15
Dark Clouds and Abundant GraceTrillia J. Newbell / 21
Cold, Dark GroundJennifer J. Camp / 25
Towers and CanyonsSerena Woods / 31
CaptivityKris Camealy / 37
The RootAngie Hong / 45
The Waging and the WaitingTammy Perlmutter / 51
The YearbookLinda Basmeson / 59
Of Old Mirrors and New DoorsKelli Woodford / 65
Part Two: Leaning In
Liquid CourageAmy Smith / 73
Joy to the World! Really? Where?Deana Chadwell / 79
NuanceSeth Haines / 85
Pain and Holy GroundChristina Gibson / 91
When I Pursued JoyMonica Sharman / 97
Wrestling with God in the
Art House TheaterKarissa Knox Sorrell / 101
A Broken Love StoryLindsey van Niekerk / 107
MetamorphosisJoy Bennett / 115
Breathing RoomTanya Marlow / 121
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Part Three: Hope and Healing


Tie to the DeepTara Pohlkotte / 131
Teenage HereticAmy Peterson / 135
Letters of IntentionSarah Bessey / 141
StripteaseSheila Seiler Lagrand / 147
Without People Like YouSarah Markley / 151
The Choreography of GodHolly Grantham / 157
Redemption Looks Beautiful on YouShelly Miller / 161
Youre Not AloneHolley Gerth / 165
GravityEmily P. Freeman / 171
Breathing Fresh AirMandy Steward / 177
Look at Me, Daddy!Dan King / 183
The CupJennifer Dukes Lee / 187
Lost and FoundCara Sexton / 193
Acknowledgments / 201
Notes / 203
Meet the Authors / 205

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INTRODUCTION

R EADER -F RIEND ,
Theres a lot of talk about authenticity out there. A lot of
feverish cheerleading about being real, showing our messy selves
and holding one another up while doing it. But Ive withdrawn
into listening for a while, sort of taking things in while I withdrew somewhat from the cacophonous conversations about authenticity, even as I fought my own obstacles to bring a book
about it into the light of day. Its been a time when my own
shadows hovered darker, my darkest clouds loomed closer than
ever, and I had to squint to see Truth within and between all the
well-meaning voices of Christendom, even in all its beauty.
What I have seen is that there is a lie so many of us believe: Your
wounds have no place here.
Yet there are times when the Christian community is all that
stands between me and hopelessnessdays when friends and
soul companions reach across the distance and transform it into
a tabernacle where we gather and laugh, or mourn, or shake our
fists together. I know what beauty looks like when I see it. This
is beauty. It always has been. It always will be.
There are different kinds of truth telling. Theres a height
above laundry piles and laughter. Theres a depth below bad-hair
EAR

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days and fast-food confessions. When I said yes to coordinating


a book about authenticity, about the raw and real baring of our
souls for a holy, redemptive purpose, I did so without anything
in particular to say but with an open heart to see what he had
to show me. I did so because this project was his from the beginning. It has always been his. And now, three years after God
stirred my own scarred and broken heart with the whisper of his
love for the scarred and broken depths of yours, I know one
thing I didnt know when I started. It is something I think youll
come to know, too, as you recognize familiar faces and familiar
shadows that challenge even the most radiant countenance
among us.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through
him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in
Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37-39 esv)
Youve heard the verses before. You may have even sung the
songs. But do you know this, really, to be true? Do you know that
your wounds, too, are welcome? Do you know that the soul-bare
places, the sights and sounds of your life that you shelter from
public display, belong to him? That he resides there? That he
redeems there? My prayer for you, reader, is that you do. That you
always will. And that these pages will remind you.
The stories that follow were each written by a different author,
all of them telling their own redemptive soul-bare truth. These
have been broken up into three sections to help you navigate
through the book: Part One: Letting Go, Part Two: Leaning In,
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Introduction

11

and Part Three: Hope and Healing. At the end of the book is a
bio section that tells a little about the authors and where else
you can find their work. Each of these writers is blessing the
world with their words, and I encourage you to visit their blogs,
buy their books, and otherwise support the important work they
are doing by honoring their writing gifts, and then to keep the
conversation open by telling your own soul-bare stories.
To tell our truth is to link arms across the divides that keep
us out, to close the gaping lie that says our wounds do not matter.
Together we are a living mosaica tiled path winding through
the beauty and pain of human experience and leading toward
redemption, and this book, together with your own soul-bare
story, is a work of art that speaks of forgiveness, grace and
healing. We tell the stories of life and love, bound together in
the perfection and completion of Christs great sacrifice. The
very Word of God is, after all, a collection of broken stories
about broken people just like us. Your story is your own and has
been written by the Creator with purpose. Even if your edges
are chipped, your story is beautiful. Tell it.
In his love and light, standing soul bare beside you,
Cara

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L
Part One

LET T ING GO

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MORE FOR YOU THAN THIS


Shannan Martin

2008

Spring descends in its usual way, slow and seductive, singing me


awake from months of face-smacking cold and lake-effect snow,
promising that while all good things come to an end, so do the bad.
Our six acres of pasture are as green to me as motherhood,
each splintered fence post, every sweep of a sudsy cloth over
chubby arms waking me up to who I was made to be. After years
of waiting, I am a mommy to Calvin and Ruby. After years of
working and saving, Im a wanna-be woman of the uncertain
frontier, rising up to work the land wed fought so long to own.
Truth rings a bellI am ill-equipped to manage both perennial beds and potty-training. But this is the life I always
wanted, so I reach out and touch its reverb, quieting my doubts,
absorbing their song until naptime, when I tuck my one-year-old
and three-year-old into their beds and make a beeline for some
quiet. Hush, little ones, were safe here. You can rest now. Were home.
Pulling rain boots onto my feet, I catch my breath along the
west row of pines, where redemption takes shape in the melting
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snow and the only thing demanding my attention is the slim


neck of a hyacinth, the lifted lips of a newborn crocus. Every
step is discovery, uncovering more of the treasure Ive been
given: the love, the children, the drafty farmhouse, the crumbling barns, the land, the life.
Im uncovering gratitude in the slope of a roofline, finding my
roots among the oaks. My eyes know only hope. My heart keeps
company with the security of our simple life.
2010
Two years later to the month, almost everything is changing. We
both heard the whisper. We both turned around, walked away,
refused to believe the words were true, or for us. I have more for
you than this.
More? Impossible.
The whisper chips away our control with its persistence, doubling efforts to jarring effect as we fly across the world then back
home, a broken-hearted toddler with pain in his almond eyes
raging in our arms.
Its just the beginning but, thank God, we have no clue. Had
the shock waves not been meted out, they surely would have
broken us.
Day bleeds into night and back again, the edges of every sure
thing warping around us until our world no longer stands erect.
Morning comes each day with a vengeance, and we stir sorrow
into the tea that scalds our throats the whole way down.
Our precious baby stares back at usstrangersand we try
not to long for easier days. The hours are clocked as over and
over he brings us his tiny, Korean soccer shoes or his corduroy
coat. These are his closest companions, the remnants of what
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More for You Than This

17

he lost in order for our prayers to be answered. His eyes wear


mourning shrouds, pulsing grief beyond their years. Let me
go home.
We are home, but Silas is not, and the ground tremors beneath the weight of this truth.
Life is no longer simple. Security is irrelevant, so far away that
we wonder if wed ever known it all, or if we would recognize it
if it returned.
One month passes, and our reward is the sudden loss of my job.
Four more weeks, and our words to our two oldest children
are spent in promises we do not dare allow ourselves to believe.
Things will soon be normal again. We want to rock Silas in the
turquoise chair, to sing into his ear, to sniff the top of his head.
We want him to hold our hand, but he shakes it loose. At less
than two years old, he feels safer in the corner of his room than
in our arms.
We are given another gift, one we dont recognize as grace: my
husbands sturdy career in federal politics is over, abruptly and
with finality, a decade of expert rung-climbing knocked to its
knees in the wake of another mans scandal. An unseen force
begins siphoning our meticulously drawn and executed financial
safety net through a hidden drain at the bottom of our life. The
things we held closest to our chest, the ones that made us feel
smart and responsible, become slippery in our hands.
Ever slowly, painfully human, we begin to see from all sides
the truth we were handed: God does have more for us, and often,
his more looks like less.
It can look like loss and pain.
From the vantage point of Gods kingdom set on the face of
this wobbly earth, the very best he has to offer can look like
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surrender and taste like tears. It sounds like a for-sale sign being
driven into dirt and feels like walking in reverse.
Our farmhouse is on the market, the one we swore we would
never leave. God wants more. He wants everything we were
taught to want: our ego, our DIY security, our account balances,
our dreams. Silas is teaching us in baby steps how to cozy up to
pain. Now we see it everywhere. Our job is to love our neighbor,
to care for the poor, to align with the low. Weve chosen the
world and called it our religion. We have served an unholy
trinity of cash, security and staus quo.
Oh, to have our conscience quelled, to unsee and unknow what
had never for a moment left the pages of the book we said we loved.
What good is a faith that inverts the paradigm, putting God
at the center of my will? Why did the Sunday school Jesus
never talk about losing my life for his sake? Decades of church
membership and dutiful rule following had done nothing to
prepare us for wherever God is leading.
I try to fend off the fear snaking our way. I fight my own heart.
Im Lots wife, already turning around, and Im not even gone.
A soundtrack assembles of naysayers, doubters and punks.
Most of them mean well, but our hearts split and scab, then split
again. They say weve lost our minds, and my pride quietly leans
their way. But just past the double-paned kitchen window of the
home weve been asked to leave, my baby loses himself for a
moment in a game of chase with his new brother and sister. His
courage yanks a thread deep inside me, and my fingers unfurl.
Maybe I dont want to be the one deciding my future. Maybe
thats all I need to know for now.
Locking eyes with my youngest son through the glass, its
clearwe all need help remembering how to trust.
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More for You Than This

19

2012
We clear the table in a hurry, dinner plates rinsed, leftovers snapped
under lids, the clatter of three young kids ricocheting off close
quarters. Summers long days are losing their steam, the leaves of
the maples hinting at gold. And the air? Well, its perfect. The buzz
from the park positioned just across the street floats through the
screens, a unique torture when youre eight or six or four.
Its only been two months, but this is already home. Our old,
farmhouse art hangs on the walls as proof, and a new path is being
worn between our house and the one next door. Ruby picks up
Spanish phrases in her kindergarten class at the school just two
blocks down. Neighbors knock on our door well past bedtime.
These are the weeks of discovering which parts of us work and
what needs to go. Were all a bit at sea, but were here together,
and were still us.
Im still prone to waxing poetic about the sleepy turning of a
rose. I like to talk peanut butter cake as much as I used to. But
I couldnt have guessed how I was made for life on the wrong
side of the tracks. Give me street art, cussing teenagers, neighbors
with laundry carts and nicotined fingertips. Show me whats real.
I can take it. I prefer it. My blissful farm-girl life pointed me
toward simple gratitude so that now, right here, I recognize its
reflection on the blister and burn of days spent banging against
the pain of another.
Looking hard in the mirror, I hunt down my humanity and
put it on trial. I confront my ugliness, the drip and drear of a
misspent life. I think long on what really matters when it comes
to this one life on earth.
The chaff is being shucked. We dont want it. We shove away
our old pretenses, our ego, our better judgment, and trade them
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for risk, the threat of judgment and the certainty that well never
explain it well enough. Laying down my peace-keeping armor,
I find who I was always meant to be, a woman who knows no
bravery apart from God, a girl desperate to be saved. Let the
opinions and disappointments fall around my ankles like spent
petals. For the first time, I dont care.
We are simply here to be neighbors, to choose a place not
accustomed to being chosen. Were still introverted and awkward,
with normal jobs and kids who gripe. We dont have time to
anticipate all the mistakes well make, and we sure wont offer
predictions about the future. This woman with her color-coded
plans and ten-year goals is tired of getting it wrong, and besides,
the park is booming and were racing daylight.
A train screams down the tracks like one thousand breaking
hearts, but across the street, kids squeal, their legs pumping
them higher into the sky. Little girls dangle from monkey bars,
rowdy boys take up fallen walnuts as free-range ammo.
So long, quiet, long-lane evenings.
Calvin and Ruby race to meet friends youd think theyve
known forever. Silas hangs back, full of four-year-old questions
and the occasional protest.
The three of us lag behind: Daddy, Silas and Mommy, a silhouette of grace against the low-setting sun.
Somewhere in the thrum of neighborhood living, I catch a
familiar tune. I still have more for you.
The truth sets a fire in my bones. More often it looks different
than we imagined, but Im not afraid anymore.
Swing me into the air! Silas shouts. And we do.
He never lets go of our hands.

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DARK CLOUDS AND


ABUNDANT GRACE
Trillia J. Newbell

fill the sky. Even the slightest


glimpse of sunshine is quenched by the cumulonimbus.
You take a step of faith and walk outside. Big balls of frozen
ice begin to fall, hitting you one by one. It hurts. It doesnt
make sense.
Keep walking . . .
The dark clouds seem to close in around you. Each step is
harder and more treacherous.
Keep walking . . .
The further you walk, the harder it gets. This plodding is so
rot with pain, you mumble as you look ahead.
There in the distance is a ray of sunlight. You remember that
beautiful inheritance. You know its coming.
Keep walking . . .
Its an act of valiant faith to put one foot in front of the other,
Keep walking . . .
ARK , THUNDEROUS CLOUDS

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Youre going to make it to the end. Weak. Tired. But hopeful,


because of that little ray, that faint but sure ray.
Keep walking.
And when you get there youll realize, he has always been there.

That scene above is a familiar theme of my short life. Trial after


trial, the Lord reminds me of his faithfulness, of his steadfast
love. Joy comes in the morning, but the morning doesnt always
come within eight hours of the sun setting. Dark clouds have
filled my days, and Ive often wondered if theyd overwhelm me.
The clouds crowded me when my best friend, my father,
passed from this earth and into another. I would never see his
bright eyes and handsome grin again. I wouldnt get the joy of
racing him across the parking lot. The drumbeats that would fill
the living room from nothing more than his thighs and knees is
now a faint memory. How he could make such sounds from his
quads Ill never really know.
The clouds crowded me when an older man that a group of
my friends trusted invaded my space and my innocence. It was
a strange way to wake upa strangers hands in places meant
only for my future husband. But the most excruciating pain was
watching his wife on the stand in the courtroom explain that he
was doing betterhe had stopped molesting his two children.
The clouds were dark over my head that day.
The clouds crowded me six sweet weeks after my husband
and I welcomed the news of our first child with joy that we
were sure the heavens could feel. We walked in the doctors
office eager to hear the subtle sound of a heart that had been
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Dark Clouds and Abundant Grace

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ignited by our God. We had heard that the beats of those tiny
hearts were fastlike little flutters. But we didnt hear a
heartbeat, and we had to experience the agony of that loss
three additional times.
Oh, dark clouds have most definitely covered my head. But
like the psalmist in Psalm 121 I cry out:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (esv)
God knew about my dark clouds. He knew that I would
mourn and weep. God reminds me in his Word that he is my
Father. Where does my help come from? It comes from my
Father. Each cloudy day brought a ray of hope. Joy comes in the
morning. Does God change our circumstances? Sometimes. But
more than not, he changes our perspective. He changes our
hearts. When I felt empty, he filled me with more of himself.
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God doesnt promise to take away difficult circumstances, but


he does promise to be your keeper. Joy is not an artificial happiness.
Joy comes from a deep trust in our holy, good, sovereign God. Joy
is rest. Resting in him, our Father, our keeper. He is our sustainer
of life. We can jump and play because we know that the mighty
and holy one is on our side. He draws near to us. He tells you to
come, oh weary soul, and he will give you rest (Mt 11:28). The rest
will bring peace and joyjoy that well experience forevermore.
Forevermore. That is our hope. Not that our joy will come here
and now but that he will one day wipe away every tear and
mourning will be no more. Hope is that one day well see our
Savior face to face. He is making all things new. And on that
day, we will experience a joy that will be indescribable. Those
dark clouds will be no more. He longs for us to lift up our eyes
and remember where our help comes from. Remember our inheritance and the promises hes provided for us in his Word.
Those are for you and metoday. Right now. Yes, even you right
now can experience joysorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
Hymn writer William Cowper once wrote that the dark
clouds would break with blessings on your head. He was right.
The clouds that we so dread have a purpose. The blessing could
simply, yet profoundly, be experiencing more of Jesus. We may
not receive all the answers this side of eternity, but may it be that
we can say, blessed be the name of the Lord!
If you find yourself in the deepest of darkest clouds searching for
joy, ask the Lord who gives abundantly to those who ask. He has
grace stored up for you, for this occasion. His grace will sustain you
and will bring you out of the despair. His grace is what allows us to
say, yes, I am joyful. Not because of anything in me or in my strength
but because I have a God who is keeping me, strengthening me and
reminding me of my great hope. Joy does come in the morning.
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